Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Gerrymandering

An important political subject gets sincere but slick treatment.

Oct 15, 2010

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/154720-Gerrymandering_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Gerrymandering is a near-perfect movie for those who have never heard of the term or only have a vague idea what it means. But political junkies and the better-informed will be disappointed by Jeff Reichert’s “Politics 101” treatment. Cable TV awaits.

No doubt director Jeff Reichert means well by presenting the urgent need to change the current tradition of gerrymandering—i.e., politically motivated redistricting. A clever Thomas Pynchon quote about abusing power opens the film, but everything that follows is a by-the-numbers overview with some serious gaps.

During its breezy 77 minutes, Gerrymandering covers the history of the practice, how it is used and abused, and how it benefits both major political parties, Democrats and Republicans. Along the way, we hear from politicians, pundits and reporters, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Howard Dean, Bob Graham, Lani Guiner, Ed Rollins, John Fund and Susan Lerner, and a host of lesser-known personalities. At the end of the film, viewers are encouraged to visit a website in order protest against and/or reform gerrymandering.

While the talking heads make a few interesting insights, the best parts of the film are the on-location examples of how gerrymandering works. New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries explains how he and his supporters were floored by a surprise redistricting that excluded Jeffries from his own district, thus making his opponent unbeatable. Thanks to clever maneuvering by the older incumbent, Jeffries never even had a chance to win the contest. Likewise, supporters of Barack Obama helped him gerrymander his way to win an election in Chicago, after failing in a different district the first time.

These anecdotal passages are entertaining and dramatic, though we don’t learn exactly how the politicians were able to manipulate the system so unilaterally. It is also surprising that Reichert focuses on Obama, since the film’s producers, Chris Romano and Dan O’Meara, had been the ones behind the much more positive portrait, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama (2009). Sadly, here Obama looks like any other opportunistic politician (and no one is interviewed from his camp to defend or explain his actions). Democrats and Republicans alike come off as sleazy—but wasn’t it the Republicans in the last decade who more forcefully corroded the system? In this film, Tom Delay appears far more benign—and like any typical politician—than he did in The Big Buy: Tom Delay’s Stolen Congress (2006).

Reichert’s emphasis is curious, even troubling at times. Why should we listen to Ed Rollins, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, chortle about how corrupt the system is when he was once a major part of it? Reichert should have asked much more challenging questions of Rollins, especially since he had him in his sights. Also, Reichert covers the infamous 2003 case of the Texas Democrats’ late-night flight from the state to protest unfair Republican redistricting, but he never clarifies what effect this odd act had on the process—within the state or beyond. We just get the usual punditry ping-pong match, with some calling the Democrats cowards, others calling them heroes.

Even with all its fancy graphics and abundance of interview subjects, Gerrymandering feels incomplete, a rough draft for a better, more in-depth film.


Film Review: Gerrymandering

An important political subject gets sincere but slick treatment.

Oct 15, 2010

-By Eric Monder


filmjournal/photos/stylus/154720-Gerrymandering_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

Gerrymandering is a near-perfect movie for those who have never heard of the term or only have a vague idea what it means. But political junkies and the better-informed will be disappointed by Jeff Reichert’s “Politics 101” treatment. Cable TV awaits.

No doubt director Jeff Reichert means well by presenting the urgent need to change the current tradition of gerrymandering—i.e., politically motivated redistricting. A clever Thomas Pynchon quote about abusing power opens the film, but everything that follows is a by-the-numbers overview with some serious gaps.

During its breezy 77 minutes, Gerrymandering covers the history of the practice, how it is used and abused, and how it benefits both major political parties, Democrats and Republicans. Along the way, we hear from politicians, pundits and reporters, including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Howard Dean, Bob Graham, Lani Guiner, Ed Rollins, John Fund and Susan Lerner, and a host of lesser-known personalities. At the end of the film, viewers are encouraged to visit a website in order protest against and/or reform gerrymandering.

While the talking heads make a few interesting insights, the best parts of the film are the on-location examples of how gerrymandering works. New York State Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries explains how he and his supporters were floored by a surprise redistricting that excluded Jeffries from his own district, thus making his opponent unbeatable. Thanks to clever maneuvering by the older incumbent, Jeffries never even had a chance to win the contest. Likewise, supporters of Barack Obama helped him gerrymander his way to win an election in Chicago, after failing in a different district the first time.

These anecdotal passages are entertaining and dramatic, though we don’t learn exactly how the politicians were able to manipulate the system so unilaterally. It is also surprising that Reichert focuses on Obama, since the film’s producers, Chris Romano and Dan O’Meara, had been the ones behind the much more positive portrait, By the People: The Election of Barack Obama (2009). Sadly, here Obama looks like any other opportunistic politician (and no one is interviewed from his camp to defend or explain his actions). Democrats and Republicans alike come off as sleazy—but wasn’t it the Republicans in the last decade who more forcefully corroded the system? In this film, Tom Delay appears far more benign—and like any typical politician—than he did in The Big Buy: Tom Delay’s Stolen Congress (2006).

Reichert’s emphasis is curious, even troubling at times. Why should we listen to Ed Rollins, the former chair of the Republican National Committee, chortle about how corrupt the system is when he was once a major part of it? Reichert should have asked much more challenging questions of Rollins, especially since he had him in his sights. Also, Reichert covers the infamous 2003 case of the Texas Democrats’ late-night flight from the state to protest unfair Republican redistricting, but he never clarifies what effect this odd act had on the process—within the state or beyond. We just get the usual punditry ping-pong match, with some calling the Democrats cowards, others calling them heroes.

Even with all its fancy graphics and abundance of interview subjects, Gerrymandering feels incomplete, a rough draft for a better, more in-depth film.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Small Time
Film Review: Small Time

You might not buy a used car from the guys in Small Time, but you will enjoy the movie about their exploits, even their exploitations (of others). More »

Fading Gigolo
Film Review: Fading Gigolo

Some top screen talent gets lost in the silliness surrounding the amorous adventures of an unlikely gigolo and his even more unlikely pimp, with writer/director/actor John Turturro the shtupper “ho” co-starring with Woody Allen as the mercenary shtup-enabler. Yarmulkes off to Turturro’s brave but deeply ill-conceived comedic foray into Brooklyn’s Satmar Hasidic community and other alien territory. More »

A Promise
Film Review: A Promise

Handsomely filmed but wan period romance. More »

Final Member
Film Review: The Final Member

Breezy documentary about the aging owner of a small Icelandic museum dedicated to penises and his quest for one last, coveted exhibit is a charmer, thanks to the warmth and sly sense of humor the protagonist brings to his unusual hobby. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

Transcendence
Film Review: Transcendence

Johnny Depp is an idealistic researcher whose consciousness is uploaded into an artificial intelligence in this slick techno-thriller with delusions of seriousness from Christopher Nolan’s cinematographer. More »

Draft Day
Film Review: Draft Day

Pro football manager faces crises on the most important day of his career in a well-tooled vehicle for Kevin Costner. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here